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Address on Small Island States within the Framework of Conference of Parties to the United Framework Convention on Climate Ch...

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FEATURE ADDRESS BY THE PRIME MINISTER OF SAINT LUCIA

THE HONOURBLE DR. KENNY ANTHONY

 

TO

 

THE SPECIAL EVENT FOCUSING ON SMALL ISLAND STATES

 

ORGANISED BY

 

COUNTERPART INTERNATIONAL, THE CLIMATE INSTITUTE,

THE ORGANISATION OF AMERICAN STATES,

WINROCK INTERNATIONAL AND

THE FORUM FOR ENERGY AND DEVELOPMENT

 

WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF THE SIXTH MEETING OF THE

CONFERENCE OF PARTIES TO THE

UNITED FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE

16 NOVEMBER 2000, THE HAGUE.

Salutations.

Ladies and gentlemen.

I wish to thank the organizers of this special event for their kind invitation to share some thoughts with you on the threats and challenges climate change has placed on the development agenda of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). I am especially pleased that you found this issue sufficiently important to take time off from your difficult and exhausting negotiations to join this discussion. Let me also thank the organizers of this event for their foresight and concern, demonstrated by their convening of this event. It demonstrates that we have friends willing to work with us as we face this challenge to our development.

International Meetings on Climate Change

Ladies and gentlemen, both Agenda 21 and the Barbados Programme of Action have placed the special vulnerabilities and challenges of Small Island Developing States on the global development agenda. These challenges have also been the focus of attention by the Commission for Sustainable Development, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) and a number of other organizations concerned about mankindís prospects for a sustainable future and, within that framework, for the special circumstances of SIDS.

A Response to Skeptics

Mr. Chairman, I understand that there is a small group of persons who still argue that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that the climate change phenomenon is indeed taking place. Over the past few years Mr. Chairman, many regions of the world have reported record high temperatures. We are losing the polar ice caps and lakes are appearing at the North Pole. There are increased frequencies and intensities of storms and it now appears that if we are to have enough characters to provide unique names for annual storms in the South Pacific, we will need to adopt the Chinese alphabet. The Global Observation System is reporting increased sea levels and while we debate this, a way of life is under threat of disappearing in the Polynesian islands. The floods in the Alps this year have laid bare natureís response to mankindís disturbance of the balance she has achieved over the millennia. And let us not forget Otzi, our prehistoric ancestor whose body lay peacefully for five thousand years in his frozen grave in the Viennian Alps before what should have been his final resting place gave him up when the ice melted.

Those who still try desperately to disprove the climate change phenomenon, explain these, and the many other recorded pieces of evidence as either isolated, unusual events or as part of a prolonged, natural global climate cycle. Now, I am not a scientist, but I understand their ways. I understand that when dealing with a subject as complex as the global climate system, research findings can be tainted by the source of funding and the philosophy of that source. On the other hand, I am a lawyer, and from this perspective, I can only conclude that, unfortunately, there is a preponderance of evidence to support the notion that the climate is indeed changing.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that most, if not all of you in this room are already convinced of this. However, I felt compelled to make this point because the outcome of the Presidential elections in the USA is likely to impact on your negotiations. You should therefore bear this in mind as it may necessitate a review of your negotiation strategy.

The Problems of Climate Change

Mr. Chairman, the unfolding revelations of climate change and its threat to the survival of natural ecosystems that support all life forms will make those of us to whom mother earth was entrusted over the past century the villains in the ongoing story of mankindís quest for survival. The Workshop of the Third Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group concluded that a world wide rise in sea levels would inundate wetlands and low lying areas, erode shorelines, exacerbate coastal flooding, increase the salinity of estuaries and otherwise impair water quality, alter tidal ranges in rivers and bays, change the locations where rivers deposit sediment, change the heights, frequencies and other characteristics of waves and decrease the amount of light reaching the ocean floor. Only one month ago, the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that at the current rate, average global temperatures are likely to increase by up to ten degrees by the turn of the century. I pray that they are wrong, as the consequences of such a dramatic increase in our planetís temperature in such a short time are incomprehensible.

Difficulties and Concerns

Mr. Chairman, the Convention identifies small island states, which contribute the least to the climate change phenomenon, as being most vulnerable to its adverse effects. This raises special concerns about the disproportionate responsibilities demanded of us, as small island states, in the quest to address climatic and ecological imbalances.

Whilst we are prepared to do our part to assist in the global battle against climate change, we also ask our global partners to be sensitive to our developmental needs. Whilst we recognise that we are all travelling on the same ship, we are also aware that some of us travel First Class, whilst the majority occupy the cargo holds. We are worried Mr. Chairman, that our economic development might be threatened, because we are denied industrial strategies which were once used without restriction by our more fortunate fellow travellers. We are worried Mr. Chairman, that we are being asked to "environmentally subsidise" our more powerful friends.

Mr. Chairman, the recognition that the Small Island Developing States have contributed very little to global climatic problems, should mean that special effort should be made to respect our attempts at economic development. Our recent conflict with some of our more developed neighbours over the issue of whaling, is but one indication of our difficulties in responding to the twin challenges of economic development and environmental sustainability.

Further, Mr. Chairman, we are also concerned of the financial burden which will be imposed on our societies in accessing the clean technologies which are compatible with environmental sustainability. In the not too distant future I expect the issue of emission limits for developing countries to be placed on the Conventionís agenda. Under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) we can expect developed countries to invest in the most cost effective emission reduction options. It follows that when the time comes for us to achieve reduction targets, only the more expensive options will remain. We must therefore ensure that appropriate baselines are set to measure our reductions, lest we face even more severe economic challenges in addressing the climate change threat.

What St. Lucia is Doing

Your excellencies, a year ago in Bonn, Saint Lucia declared its intention to pursue a development path which will incorporate a sustainable energy future for our island. This is a bold decision, with far reaching policy implications for our small State. However, it was taken against the background of our conviction that we needed to provide prudent leadership to the rest of the world in our quest for survival.

Although our contribution to the global warming phenomenon is miniscule, we feel strongly that our commitment to the solution must be pursued with vigor. We also feel that adaptation to the impact of climate change cannot be the limit of our intervention. We further recognize that although any mitigation option we pursue will make a very small contribution to the total effort needed, we must demonstrate our commitment to working towards the global solution. In short, Mr. Chairman, as a responsible member of the global family, we refuse to be another Nero, fiddling without concern as our planet burns.

In addition, we recognize strong economic reasons for pursuing this path. We see opportunities for new investments, technological advancement, the creation of quality employment opportunities as well as some measure of isolation from the steadily increasing price of fossil fuels. However, we recognize that many of these benefits will ultimately depend on the outcome of ongoing negotiations on the Clean Development Mechanism and Article 4 of the Convention. We look forward to the satisfactory conclusion of these negotiations so that we can move this process forward with confidence.

Some of St. Luciaís capability is being developed through the enabling activities currently underway. In the Caribbean, we have implemented the Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Climate Change project. With the imminent closure of this project, we have proposed the establishment of a Regional Climate Change Centre as a means of continuing the research and capacity building so vital to our region. This proposal must be seen as part of the global effort, as its outputs will add to our collective knowledge of climate change and build global capacity to address it.

Mr. Chairman, as our small size places severe limits on the shocks we can absorb, it is important that we go beyond the reactive approach and embrace, as far as possible, approaches which allow us to respond to anticipated climatic changes. Given that most of our population centres and economic infrastructure lie within the coastal zone, we must, of necessity take action to protect them. We must also seek to develop both the human and institutional capacities of our countries, if we are to meet the anticipated challenges to our development.

Partners in our Sustainable Energy Plan

Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to inform you that a number of partners have joined us in developing the framework of our Sustainable Energy Plan. We entered into a partnership with The Climate Institute, and through this organization, have received assistance from The Organisation of American States, United Nations Development Programme, the United States Department of Energy, and a number of other organizations in this effort. To date, we have produced a draft plan that calls for action, and set targets in a number of areas. These include greater exploitation of renewable sources of energy, demand side management, energy efficiency and conservation, a framework for facilitating the involvement of independent power producers, the rationalization of road transport as well as the use of fiscal incentives to support various elements of the plan.

I must point out that the development of this plan is not a theoretical exercise. Even as we are developing it, actions are being pursued to achieve the targets we are setting. Government has already removed all taxes on renewable energy technologies. We have entered into an agreement with the Toronto based Probyn and Company to develop a wind farm on the island. The wind resource assessment is complete and the local utility is currently considering a Power Purchase Agreement for a 13.5 Mega Watt wind farm. We have also entered into an agreement with CFG of France to conduct further geothermal explorations on the island. We are currently seeking an additional US$ 400,000.00 to close this deal, following which work is to commence. We have also implemented a Solar lighting demonstration project with assistance from the Italian government and we are seeking partners for implementing a wind-based irrigation demonstration project.

In addition to these projects, we are reviewing the policy framework under which the power sector operates. To this end, we are currently studying the report of a Review Commission appointed to review the operations and policies of the local utility and will be taking appropriate decisions to ensure conformity with national policy.

Mr. Chairman, let me put these actions into perspective. While we have taken the decision to pursue a sustainable energy future, we recognize that we cannot achieve this alone. Success presupposes the support of technology providers under favourable conditions, for we cannot accept options that deliver at a higher cost than we now have. Also, we cannot accept experimental technologies, for our size and technological base will not allow this. We also presuppose that technology transfer will be complete, with appropriate training and capacity building to ensure local involvement in this initiative. And finally, Mr. Chairman, we challenge the promoters of the concept of a global sustainable energy future to bite the bullet with us and prove that this is indeed achievable.

Conclusion

I take this opportunity to thank the Climate Institute and all the other organizations that are assisting us with this effort. Mr. Chairman, this is not an exclusive club. There are opportunities for others to demonstrate their vision for a safer world by participating in this initiative. I challenge them to do so.

Your excellencies, our apparently insatiable thirst for fossil based energy has disturbed the thermodynamic equilibrium nature achieved over the millennia and we have already begun to witness her efforts to restore it. She cries out for our help. She beckons us to take action to restore the balance needed for our own survival. I suggest to you that if we ignore this call, history will condemn us as selfish and uncaring

In closing, Mr. Chairman, I propose that whereas climate change is arguably the greatest challenge mankind faces today, it is not beyond our collective ability to overcome. I say this not only because of the tremendous energy you expend in these negotiations, but because, in a very real sense, we have no choice in the matter. Failure to reach critical agreements in the ongoing negotiations is not an option, for it spells untold difficulties for generations yet unborn. Let us not forget that the earth is not a gift we will leave for our children. Rather, it is the property of future generations, entrusted to us for safe keeping. Let us not disappoint them.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you.

 

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